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Staff not included

Closing special schools might make economic sense, but what about the children? Mic Carolan laments the passing of an era

We are in the middle of the "great reorganisation", the plan which will not only deliver "inclusion" but will lead us all into the 21st century and, incidentally, save a lot of money.

The last bit is often not mentioned, but it seems fairly obvious that if three special schools close and one opens, then there must be a saving.

Some colleagues have got jobs in the new school, some have been made redundant, some are not applying at all and some, like me, are retiring.

Our last year has been tough: the flat roof is, like me, knackered. The wiring is overloaded. We have a rented "portable" male toilet, and five portable classrooms that need replacing. The swimming pool leaks (somewhere under the soccer pitch is a secret chlorine lake). We have shipping containers for storage, and a shed for a gym in the courtyard. In the circumstances, we have achieved a great deal.

We held our final pensioners' Christmas party last year, a long-standing tradition for which our key stage 4 youngsters deliver invitations, make food and entertain local people. Our own Christmas dinner with pupils was as wonderful a celebration as ever; the annual awards (better than Baftas), chosen by the children, for staff with "the worst taste tie" and for the "Bet Lynch earrings" were well received.

I held a raffle, the money from which will go to the NSPCC, as will the proceeds of the bacon butty morning, held on the last day of term, and the collection for my retirement. We raised nearly pound;500.

We've had some kind benefactors over the years. The former Liverpool soccer star Alan Kennedy gave us pound;1,000; we used the money for visits and residential camps; the Nichols food group, through the Variety Club, gave us a new minibus.

In August we held our final summer school with youngsters from seven schools coming together for a week of archery, horse riding, ICT, art, judo and swimming. Inclusion in action.

I suppose I'm beginning to understand what the Army regiments threatened with abolition mean by preserving tradition. We had a breakfast kitchen long before it was fashionable; we provided joined-up social care before it was named thus; we challenged children with adventure, travelling to Spain and speaking the language; played competitive rugby league; and had a house system. We have had one last exhibition of art at the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral - an annual event - and undertaken a soccer and netball tour of Newcastle. We tried to take from the best experiences available and, if they didn't exist, we created them.

I worry now about the tributes in the entrance hall - to the little boy who drowned in an area of abandoned pit waste, the stubborn little girl who survived heart surgery, the nursery nurse, the caretaker - and the awards for which we worked so hard. Who should have them?

Some very special children made me cry last week at our final church service, when they sang and danced with joy and courage, self-confidence and character. Whatever the politics of the disabilityinclusion movement, there are issues of poverty, access and individuality, and the need for what the most inspirational and very best teacher I ever met calls "psychological safety", which are just not being recognised or addressed.

We should not be embarrassed by positive discrimination, and we should begin to be more honest about the appropriateness of much of the curriculum, and the attitudes of those who teach it.

Mic Carolan is retiring after 38 years as a teacher, and lately 20 years as head of Hurst school in St Helens

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